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While behind the wheel of the 2020 Passat I was reminded that this is Volkswagen's no-nonsense sedan. It's not fast, luxurious, or techy. But what it lacks in flash, it makes up for with sensibility.
With a starting price of $22,995, it's not totally devoid of technology. The MIB II infotainment system is housed in a 6.3-inch display. It's on the small size for a vehicle in this class and the in-dash computer had a bit more latency than I like. It's not horrible, but there was a slight stutter a few times while I was navigating the system.
And speaking of: Navigation isn't standard, it's an option. And honestly, I'd skip it. It looks like a mapping feature from four years ago. Fortunately, the Passat supports CarPlay and Android Auto. Plugin your phone, fire up Google Maps and you'll have a better experience.
The driving experience itself is adequate. Even with more torque, the Passat is never going to quicken the pulse. That's not its purpose. If you want fun, buy a Golf. If you want to get around town sensibly with four full-grown humans, the Passat is your car.
While commuting with your three co-workers, the vehicle's optional adaptive cruise control will make short work of gridlock. Cut-ins were, for the most part, handled deftly with a few instances of the Passat excitedly hitting the brakes as cars entered its path while in cruise control lurching those inside forward. Speeding back up to catch traffic does take a bit, but that's more to do with the engine than the ADAS (Advanced Drivers Assistance System).
The 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine produces 174 horsepower and 206 pounds-feet of torque. Enough to accelerate on the on-ramp to meet the flow of traffic and to pass when there is a lot of space but mostly it's just “good enough.” Cruising on the highway is an uneventful experience which is exactly what this car is built for. A nice chill drive.
The suspension offers up decent ride quality on the straights and surprising amount of cornering prowess. Those Volkswagen engineers just couldn't help themselves it seems. If you do happen to get this car on the backroads, there's just enough grip for a smile to appear on your face.
Inside the seats are comfortable and the new strip of wood along the dash does give the car some much-needed flair. Unfortunately, the rest of the materials in the dash feel too cheap for a car in this class. I'd say most people don't rub their dashboards on a regular basis, but it also looks cheap, especially next to the bit of tree element.
The 2020 Passat is a series of compromises punctuated with a few surprises. The engine is merely fine, but the cornering is great. The seats are comfortable, but some interior elements feel cheaper than the vehicle's sticker price. It's a sedan that's built for commuting. If you can fill it with coworkers even better. If you need a tool to get from point A to point B, here's your car. If you want something with a bit more soul, look elsewhere.